DOJ to Mayor Kenney: Philly's 'sanctuary' policies violate federal law

Aaron Brown
October 13, 2017

In August, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and City Solicitor Sozi Pedro Tulante announced a lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over withholding grant funds by imposing new and "unprecedented" requirements to show compliance.

The U.S. Department of Justice has put five U.S. jurisdictions on notice: end sanctuary policies by October 27.

The Justice Department has threatened to cut off federal funding to boost law enforcement in cities that do not comply with the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to identify and deport undocumented immigrants.

The letters don't say what will happen if the cities don't comply.

The Mayor of New Orleans Mitch Landrieu and the superintendent of the police department said the city was in "full compliance" with the statute but added that they would "not be the federal government's deportation force".

Additionally, the Justice Department said subsequent investigations found Miami-Dade County, Fla., and Clark County, Nev., where Las Vegas is located, were already in accordance with federal immigration law, though previously they had been listed otherwise. Though this rule is aimed at barring questions about immigrants' legal status, DOJ says it could be interpreted to bar NYPD members from requesting immigration info from federal immigration officers, which would be illegal.

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Sessions, in a statement accompanying the warnings, said "jurisdictions that adopt so-called "sanctuary policies" also adopt the view that the protection of criminal aliens is more important than the protection of law-abiding citizens and of the rule of law". That law says local governments "may not prohibit, or in any way restrict" the delivery of information about "the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual" to federal immigration authorities.

City leaders have long maintained that fostering a good relationship between the police department and immigrant communities will help keep the city safer.

Milwaukee County and the State of CT, which did not receive letters in the initial review, were also found to be compliant.

"I commend the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office and the State of CT on their commitment to complying with Section 1373", Sessions said, "I urge all jurisdictions found to be out of compliance in this preliminary review to reconsider their policies that undermine the safety of their residents".

Chicago and Cook County have until October 27 to submit a response before the DOJ makes its final determination.

Kenney has been an ardent supporter of Philadelphia's "sanctuary city" policies.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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